EXPERIENCED travelers often relish the chance to avoid well-known tourist attractions. They want to avoid the big crowds, explore less-known places and delight in getting closer to nature.
For such travelers heading to Hangzhou, venturing out to the suburban countryside offers a different but rewarding experience compared to West Lake. These places don’t have the convenience of cafes or star hotels, but they do feature local delicacies, down-to-earth farmers and a respite from city life.
Shanghai Daily introduces three options worthy of a weekend getaway.
Xinye Ancient Village in Jian’de 建德新叶古镇
Artists and photographers love Xinye because of its remarkably well preserved antiquated black-and-white buildings that are synonymous with the Yangtze River Delta region.
This village is in Jian’de County and has been dubbed an “open-air museum” of buildings from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
More than 230 white-washed southern China-style buildings including residences, pagodas, temples and ancestral halls survived the “cultural revolution” (1966-76). Villagers prevented old buildings from being destroyed by plastering lime on exquisite sculptures and carvings, and posting papers with quotes by late Chairman Mao Zedong.
Most Xinye residents are farmers. Still, this tranquil countryside nook has been featured in numerous travel and photography magazines due to the architecture and its “undisturbed” traditions.
Xinye’s customs have survived unchanged because it is in a remote mountain location. War has seldom touched Xinye. Poor infrastructure also restricted access to the outside world. Villagers thus have a strong sense of clan. They do not allow people to tear down ancestral buildings.
Moreover, this area has not been carved out as a tourist attraction. When strolling along slab stone roads, it’s basically only locals.
How to get there:
If you drive: G60 Expressway – Hangzhou Raocheng Expressway – G320 Expressway (Jinhua/Lanxi direction) – Daciyan Town – follow signs to Xinye Village
By bus: Take a long-distance bus bound for Jiande, and then at the Jiande Bus Station buy a ticket to Xinye Village.
Luci Bay in Tonglu 桐庐芦茨湾
For those who like being outdoors, Luci Bay makes for a idyllic weekend destination.
Hiking through lush forests filled with pine trees and bamboos allow travelers to get their heart rate going while fishing, boating and rafting trips are also available. In summer, visitors can also take a dip in Luci Bay, which is about 1.5 meters deep and features crystal clear water.
The area also features dozens of nongjiale (happy farmer’s house). These simple hostels give travelers a chance to experience life like a local.
Nongjiale is famous for serving great meals made from fresh produce and locally raised animals.
Free-range chicken, lettuce, bamboo, frog and fish dishes are all highly recommended.
You can even pick your own vegetables and try to catch your own fish.
How to get there:
If you drive: G60 Expressway – Hangzhou Raocheng Expressway – Hangxinjing Expressway – Fuchuanjiang Town exit – follow signs to Luci Bay
Bus: Take a bus to Tonglu County and then a taxi to Luci Bay.
Qiandao Lake in Chuan’an 淳安千岛湖
Even though Qiandao Lake is well known, don’t worry about crowds. The area is so large that it has 1,078 islands dotting a lake that covers 567.4 square kilometers. So even if there is a big number of visitors, they will be spread out and travelers can relish in having more space to themselves.
The artificial lake located in Chun’an County in the southwest part of Hangzhou is a reservoir that turned thousands of mountaintops into islands in 1959.
Due to the abundant water and the forests, Qiandao Lake boasts a comfortable climate, a wonderful natural environment and a great deal of sights.
Huangshanjian is accessible by speedboat from the wharf at the Qiandao Lake downtown area. Climb to top, or take a cable car, to get a gorgeous view of more than 90 islands.
Tianchi Island is another island, which has been developed into a bird sanctuary. Visitors will be able to see parrots, swans, cormorants, flamingoes and ostriches.
There are an estimated 3,000 birds on the island. The island’s attractions include a viewing platform, parrot corridor, waterfowl garden, bird art show, bird hospital, cormorant fishing and swan lake.
How to get there:
If you drive: G60 Expressway – Hangzhou Raocheng Expressway – Hangqian Expressway